GLIMSTEDT represented South Africa’s Litvaks in Lithuanian citizenship reinstatement proceedings

On 19 July, a judicial panel of the Lithuanian Supreme Administrative Court granted a complaint filed by RSA Jews for revocation of the Lithuanian Interior Minister’s decision to refuse their application for restoration of Lithuanian citizenship and for reconsideration by the Ministry of Interior of their dual citizenship reinstatement possibilities.

The applicants in the proceedings were represented by Dr Solveiga Palevičienė and Inga Klimašauskienė, Associate Partners at GLIMSTEDT.

Having heard the administrative case brought before it, the court of first instance dismissed the application as unfounded following its hitherto established case-law. It was noted by the court that departure by the applicant’s mother from Lithuania could not be interpreted as “fleeing away” because the reasons for such withdrawal from Lithuania before 1940 indicated by the applicants to the Migration Department could hardly be deemed to constitute specific or exceptional reasons giving grounds to qualify her withdrawal as an exceptional case.

Although the Lithuanian Supreme Administrative Court was equally relying on the interpretation of the concept of “fleeing away” given in Article 7 of the Law on Citizenship, which was in effect on the application submission date and was requiring proof of some individual threats to the “person who left Lithuania before 11 March 1990”, the Court emphasised that it was not correct to associate such threats solely with an occupation regime. According to the Court, the Migration Department did not look properly into the facts indicated by the applicants and, specifically, into the fact that their withdrawal from Lithuania was determined by their belonging to a particular ethnic group, and therefore gave insufficient reasons for its decision.

By instructing the Migration Department to reconsider the applicants’ request for reinstatement of dual citizenship, the Court drew attention to the opinion presented on the basis of a historical analysis of the situation of Jews in Lithuania in 1918 – 1949, carried out by Lithuanian scholars Dr Šarūnas Liekis and Dr Linas Venclauskas, and to certain other arguments and evidence presented by the applicants to underpin their request.

The Court also drew attention to the fact that the Law Amending Article 2 and Article 7 of the Law on Citizenship was passed by the Lithuanian Parliament on 23 June 2016 to give greater possibilities for regaining Lithuanian citizenship. By such amendments to the Law, the concept of the “persons who left Lithuania before 11 March 1990” has been replaced by the concept of the persons having departed from Lithuania during the said period where the reasons of their departure are no longer important.

In the opinion of Dr Solveiga Palevičienė, the above Judgment delivered by the Supreme Administrative Court and also the aforesaid amendments to the Law on Citizenship opening up the possibilities to thousands of Lithuanian Jews who were forced to leave Lithuania before 1940 due to gross violation of their rights, ethnicity and threatened holocaust vividly demonstrate a breakthrough in legal consciousness in Lithuania, political maturity and a responsible approach to historically sensitive issues.

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